The Slatest

White House Chief of Staff Admits “We’re Not Going to Control the Pandemic” as Cases Soar

Meadows, standing under an umbrella and wearing a mask, raises his left hand to his left ear
Mark Meadows outside the White House on Sunday. Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

For those wondering what President Donald Trump is planning to do to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows made clear Sunday that the answer was simple: not much. During an interview on CNN, Meadows said the administration isn’t really concentrating on controlling the pandemic, but rather wants to focus on developing a vaccine as quickly as possible while coming up with effective treatments to make sure that those who catch it don’t die from the virus. “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation areas,” Meadows told Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union.

When Tapper followed up and asked Meadows why the White House wouldn’t want to get the pandemic under control, he implied that it was a bit of a ridiculous proposition. “Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu,” Meadows said. He added at one point that the White House is “making efforts to contain it” but emphasized that wasn’t the focus. “What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this,” Meadows said. He implied that the only way to keep the virus under control was to “quarantine all of America.”

Likening the coronavirus to the flu appears to be part of a White House strategy, considering that Trump himself compared the two in a tweet earlier this month. The tweet was later flagged by Twitter with a warning saying it violated its rules about spreading “misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”

Meadows made the comments at a time when Vice President Mike Pence said he will continue campaigning even though several of his aides have tested positive for COVID-19 and the number of cases is rising across the country. A total of 83,718 new COVID-19 cases were reported Saturday, 39 shy from Friday, when the number of cases broke a new record. Experts say it’s only a matter of time before the daily cases hit the six-figure mark and warned deaths will start ticking up as well. “We easily will hit six-figure numbers in terms of the number of cases,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN. “And the deaths are going to go up precipitously in the next three to four weeks, following usually new cases by about two to three weeks.”

Update, Oct. 25, 2020, at 5:10 p.m.: Democratic nominee Joe Biden issued a statement Sunday afternoon that said Meadows’ comments amounted to “a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away.”